Born Charles Hardin Holley on 7 September 1936, Buddy (as he was nicknamed from an early age by his family) first performed and broadcast in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, around 1954, singing and playing straight country and country-bop numbers with a school friend.
During 1956 he first recorded professionally in Nashville, mostly his own songs performed in roughly similar style to the first few of his subsequent hits. Some of the tracks were later rated amongst his best work, but at the time they went nowhere.
The 20-year old Buddy released his first single, Blue Days Black Nights b/w Love Me in April 1956 and was rewarded with a slightly snooty review in Billboard which concluded: “if the public will take more than one Presley or Perkins, this one stands a chance”.
Three months later. the Brunswick label released the single in the UK. Collectors now pay around £600 for it in mint condition!
Early in 1957 Holly and his band, The Crickets, started recording in Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico, and, with a new record deal, hit the jackpot with That’ll Be The Day, Words Of Love, Peggy Sue and Oh Boy! in rapid succession.
Peggy Sue originally surfaced as Cindy Lou, but Holly decided to rename it in honour of Peggy Sue Gerron, a Lubbock High School pupil who was dating Crickets’ drummer Jerry Allison.
Because of contractual problems, the first new release was simply credited to The Crickets, and thereafter they more or less alternated the credits. One release was by Buddy Holly, the next by The Crickets – even though the same team participated in most of them until not long before Holly’s death.
Interestingly though, whereas the releases credited to The Crickets were all fairly raunchy (even It’s So Easy had a rough edge to it), several of the Buddy Holly issues were candy bar-sweet.
They had great charm, of course, especially to love-sick young things, but Everyday, Heartbeat, and other syrupy titles that emerged after Holly’s death had precious little to do with Rock & Roll.
Once Holly and The Crickets had parted company (after arguments about their drinking habits on tour) this tendency was confirmed: listen to his work with The Dick Jacobs Orchestra, as heard on both sides of his posthumously released hit It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (composed by Paul Anka) b/w Raining In My Heart (1959).
In two years he had taken his music from the raw southern sounds of Rock Around With Ollie Vee and That’ll Be The Day (1957) to a blueprint of Adam Faith‘s British pop hits.
During a particularly harsh winter in 1959, Holly was touring the American Midwest in an unreliable tour bus with a broken heater. On 3 February he decided (along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper) to charter a small plane for the journey from Clear Lake, Iowa to Moorhead, Minnesota.
Minutes after taking off, the plane crashed into a cornfield in a snowstorm. All three musicians and their pilot, Roger Peterson, were killed. Holly was 22.
After Holly’s death, Jerry Allison and Joe Mauldin teamed up with guitarist Sonny Curtis, who had played with Holly in his early days, and carried on as The Crickets, with Curtis as lead singer.
On 14 April 2012, The Crickets were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by a special committee, to correct the mistake of not including the band with Buddy Holly when he was inducted in 1986.